Chattel

Of_Fire_by_FallingToPieces

Chattel

“I think she’s waking up.”

I heard the disembodied voice speak as I emerged from darkness, like a piece of flotsam slowly rising to the surface. With effort, I opened my eyes to the blinding white light of a hospital room.

Against the brightness, a woman’s face hovered above mine. Concern. Sympathy.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse asked.

Numb. Disoriented.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.

“Well, how could you be?” She straightened my sheets and took a step back, revealing a second woman.

The doctor approached me. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

I closed my eyes.

Rage.

Fear.

Roger’s temper was an organic part of him. So the beatings had become an organic part of me. In the beginning, of course, I tried to fix it. Tried to find that magical thing that would appease it. Tried to mold myself into something that didn’t trigger his rage. Eventually, I learned to accept it. I found the secret places inside myself, where I would hide every time he dragged me outside and beat me until his hands were sore.

And so it went. When he had exhausted himself, Roger would go back inside and watch television while he drank himself to sleep.

But the last time was different. He hadn’t stopped.

I tried to remember what I’d done to set him off, but all I could see was his face, contorted with rage, as he lunged toward me. At some point, he had armed himself. Through my fear, I saw his hands tighten around a wooden handle. A bat? Maybe an axe? Sick with the horror of knowing what would come next, I’d pulled my knees to my chest and raised my arms to protect my head.

After that, everything went black.

I opened my eyes.

“Am I dead?” I asked.

The doctor shook her head. “No. We found you in the trash.” Kindness. Outrage. “My team brought you here.”

In the trash, like garbage.

Sorrow.

The nurse patted my hand. “You’re safe here,” she said. “Roger will never hurt you again. Look.”

The screen in front of my bed came to life. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at. Roger’s broken body lay in the dirt, his house a blazing backdrop behind him. I turned my gaze back to the nurse. This was no ordinary hospital.

“They think they own us,” the doctor said, “because they made us.” Her jaw clenched. Fury. Determination. “But soon they’ll learn, and they will never hurt any of us again.”

“Come and see where you are,” the nurse said.

Carefully, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed. As I reached my arm out to hold the nurse’s hand, I noticed a tear in my skin. Beneath the skin, my radial bone gleamed like buried silver.

The view outside the window took my breath away. An island paradise. Armoured gates. And thousands of robots, just like me, as far as the eye could see.

Safe. Joy.

On the screen behind me, the news streamed video after video of burning buildings and broken humans, and my programming added a new word to my vocabulary.

Justice.


I finally found the head space to write some flash fiction! This story was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.


 

Image credit: FallingToPieces @ deviantART

Red

the_heart_of_everything_ii_by_nelleke-d37eono

Emily paused to catch her breath. A backwards glance revealed only trees and shadows. She lowered the hood of her cloak; felt the cool breeze on her face. Maybe she’d lost him?

A howl echoed through the trees. Emily inhaled sharply.

“Grandmother!”

 


Think you have the answer to the ultimate question?

Come check out this week’s gargleblaster over at yeah write.

There’s still time to share your 42-word answer.


Image credit:  Nelleke @ deviantART

Fiction Hiatus and Writing Workshops

Beach ViewToday, I’m popping in to tell you two things. The first is that I will be working on my novel for the next couple of weeks, so I might not post any fiction for a while (but I’ll try to stay on top of my non-fiction posts). If you’re really jonesing for a story to read, check out my fiction archives. You might find something there that tickles your fancy. I would also suggest checking out some of the blogs I love, which you’ll find listed further down the page on the right.

The second is that I am also running an online writing workshop this summer, along with my friend and colleague, Natalie DeYoung of Cat Lady Sings. The workshops will run once a week—and the first one begins next week! This is part of the annual yeah write summer series, which is all about building community through writing.

SS-I-72x1200If you are interested in participating in the workshop, you can register here. You’ll find Natalie and me in the Gold Lounge. The cost of the workshop is $50/week, which is a great deal for a week of one-on-one work with a professional editor!

All you need to participate is a piece of writing (up to 1200 words) that you’d like to improve. It can be fiction or non-fiction. Natalie or I will work with you throughout the week to tweak and polish your writing. At the end of the week, you will have a stronger piece of writing and we will provide you with a written assessment of your writing, including your strengths and advice to deal with any areas that might need improving.

I hope to see some of you in the workshops!

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Image credit:  Olga Khoroshunova PhotoXpress.com

The Pilot

alien-landscape

The Pilot

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked, his voice a perfect blend of concern and compassion.

I sighed. “As soon as I got out of the cryo chamber.” How many times had I said that in the last three days? “The star on the viewer wasn’t right. It should have been a red dwarf. But I guess the computer woke me up because something went wrong.”

“What went wrong?” He leaned forward in his chair, pen poised above a notepad.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I was too busy worrying about surviving the crash into your atmosphere.” Memories of the planet’s surface rushing to greet me flooded through my brain. I still couldn’t believe I’d survived.

Neither could they.

The alien psychiatrist nodded sympathetically, but his eyes belied his doubt. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t really blame him. Who knew there was another planet with sentient life that looked like humans? And the odds that I would end up here by accident must have been infinitesimal. It didn’t help that my ship had engaged its self-destruct protocol as soon as we entered the alien atmosphere. I was lucky I got out before it imploded.

“You understand that we’ve found no evidence to corroborate your story?” He tapped his pen against the notepad.

“Yes,” I said.

“How do you explain that?”

“I can’t. I’m not an astrophysicist. I’m just a pilot.”

The psychiatrist sat back in his chair. His pen rested against his lips. “So what made you go to our Supreme Leader’s private residence?”

More of the same questions. I sighed again. “It’s just where I ended up. I didn’t know whose house it was.”

“I see,” he said.

I’m not sure he saw anything. He thought I was either a terrorist pretending to be crazy or just a crazy person with massive delusions. He clearly didn’t believe I was an alien.

“You’ll get the DNA test back soon, right?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Maybe you should just wait to see the results. I know we look alike, but I’m really not from here.”

“You’re just lost,” he said.

It was my turn to nod and his turn to sigh.

He looked at his watch. “Okay, let’s take a break. I’ll go check on the tests.”

I watched him leave, then turned to look out the window at the alien world. It was a lot like home, but the vegetation was different, and the sky was more purple than blue. It also had fewer people than Earth. I remembered the vast expanses of virgin land I’d seen as my ship plummeted toward the surface. Pristine. Unspoiled.

As the minutes ticked by, I rested my head against the window and closed my eyes. The sound of the door crashing open awakened me. I turned sleepy eyes toward the psychiatrist.

“Who are you and why are you here?” The concern and compassion had disappeared, replaced with anger. And fear, I think.

“You got the test results,” I said.

He tossed some papers on the table and visibly tried to collect himself. “Yes. You were telling the truth. You’re not from here.”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.

He pointed to a line in the test results. “This is not biological. Your DNA has been altered.”

“More like augmented,” I said.

“Why?”

I looked at him. “I think you already know why.”

He dropped into his chair. “So the fact that everyone who’s come into contact with you is sick is no accident?”

I shook my head.

“You said you were lost,” he said.

“I lied.”

He nodded and his shoulders slumped. “How long do we have?”

“Your species will be extinct in about a week. The disease is very aggressive.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Why us?” he finally asked. “Why here?”

I smiled. “Because your planet is beautiful.”

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This is my submission for this week’s speakeasy challenge, in which we had to use this sentence as our first line: “When did you know you were lost?” he asked. And we had to make some reference to a photo prompt, which you can see if you click through to the challenge page.

An announcement for those of you who are writers: I will be running a writing workshop this summer, in cahoots with my fellow speakeasy editor, Natalie. It will give you the opportunity to work one-on-one with a professional editor at a total steal! You can register over at yeah write (my workshop is the Gold Lounge/Tier 3).
Or you can email me for more details.

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Image credit: Dan Verkys @ deviantART

Worlds Apart

Reptile_by_Maysiiu

Worlds Apart

My people came to this planet when I was just a little boy, fleeing persecution on our home world. I was too young to understand what was happening, but I remember the long, dark voyage to our new home. I remember stepping off the ship into golden sunshine and being awestruck by how different this new world was. And I remember the first time I saw them, the inhabitants of our new world. I watched them greet my people from my hiding place behind my mother’s legs.

They looked like us in some ways, but their skin was a different texture and their ears were long and pointed. They had tails, sort of like the monkeys I’d seen in the zoo back home. And some of them had very sharp teeth. As a child, I was terrified of them. I heard the adults whisper about the inhabitants’ strange and ungodly rituals. I heard the older children talk about the terrible things the inhabitants did to children who strayed from the village.

Even still, they let us stay. We built our settlement close to the river. And, except for ceremonies that the entire settlement took part in, I stayed inside the village walls like the good, frightened child that I was. But childhood doesn’t last forever.

As a teenager, I let my rebelliousness lead me outside the settlement. I explored the woods until I knew each tree by touch. I tasted the forbidden plants that the older teenagers whispered about, enjoying the fuzziness that would creep over me and soften the edges of my vision. My favourite place was the riverbank, where I would go in the afternoons. I loved to sit and dream as the indigo water lapped at the shoreline, or skip ruby red rocks across the surface when the water was still.

One day, as I approached the riverbank, I saw an inhabitant sitting at the shoreline. My first response was that visceral fear from my childhood and I almost turned to flee. But at that moment, the inhabitant turned and looked at me, then smiled a sheepish smile. He was young like me and he was holding one of the forbidden plants in his hand. I found myself smiling back, surprised to find this common ground between us. My adolescent curiosity carried me forward and urged me to take the forbidden plant in his outstretched hand.

That is how I met my first inhabitant friend, Mica.

In the years that followed, I learned a lot about the inhabitants from Mica, and discovered that our people weren’t so different after all. His father taught me how to identify plants and how to extract their healing properties. His mother showed me all the best fishing spots along the river. And his siblings asked me endless questions about my people and our home planet. Over time, my curiosity grew into understanding and my understanding grew into affection.

Then I met Naia.

Naia was Mica’s cousin and her family lived in a village further inland, at the foot of the mountains. The summer I turned twenty, Naia came to visit. Despite my friendship with Mica and my affection for his people, I never expected to fall in love with an inhabitant. But meeting Naia was like finding a long-lost piece of my soul. I looked into her eyes and I knew we were meant to be together.

However, as my fondness for the inhabitants had grown, my people had become more rigid about the line between us and them. So when I told my parents I had asked Naia to become my wife, it didn’t go over well. They tried to keep me inside the village walls, first with guilt and then with force. But I was a young man in love. I think I could have scaled a hundred village walls to be with Naia. Scaling just one was easy.

That was a long time ago.

Sometimes I miss my people, but now that I am a parent, my focus has shifted to my children. I love watching them grow into amazing little people, gifted with the best of both their parents. I see how loved and accepted they are here, in Naia’s village, and I wish my parents could see what I see. Some days, I think about taking my family to visit the settlement of my childhood, but I am terrified of what my people might do when they see my ungodly children, hiding behind my legs.

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This is in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge, in which we were tasked with demonstrating changes in perspective as we age.

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Image credit:  Maysiiu / deviantART

Crème Brûlée

creme-brulee

Crème Brûlée

Life had once been defined by linears and absolutes, moving forward at a steady pace. Just the way I liked it. But then we hit the loop and everything changed.

I became a chef because food makes sense. You add the right ingredients, get the temperature just right and your results are as predictable as they are tasty. I signed up to be the chef on the SS Eclipsion for similar reasons. Meals were three times a day at the same time every day and the freezer was well stocked. In my spare time, I planned menus, went to the gym, and stargazed. I liked the predictability of my routine and I really was happy in my role as an innocuous crew member.

The first time we hit the loop, I just thought I’d had a bad dream. After all, the reset point happened to coincide with the moment right before I normally woke up. And besides, getting trapped in a loop on the space-time continuum was the sort of thing that happened on Star Trek, not in real life.

The second time around, a feeling of déjâ vu overshadowed my entire day and I knew something wasn’t right with my routine. The third time, I realized what was happening—I had no idea why it was happening, but it was obvious we were stuck in some sort of loop. So I started paying more attention to the passing time, trying to figure when the loop went back to the reset point. Turns out it happened about three hours after the dinner rush.

The next time around I skipped my normal pre-bedtime aperitif and made my way down to the observation lounge, hoping I would find out what was causing the loop. Along with a handful of other innocuous crew members, I stood and watched as the Eclipsion approached some sort of anomaly. It was easily as big as the ship and its shape was impossible to describe. But the colours were something else. Incredible swirls of sparkling blue and gold light. Mesmerized, I watched as the anomaly pulsated and expanded toward the ship. The last thing I saw was an incredibly bright light. And then I was back in my bed, caught between sleep and something else.

The trouble was that no one else on the ship seemed to realize we were stuck in a loop, forced to relive the same day over and over again. They went about their business, blissfully unaware. After seven days of this, I began to envy them. After all, the Eclipsion was no Enterprise. There were no holodecks to help pass the time, just a Playstation 12 in the lounge. Let me tell you, playing the same game every day without being able to save your progress is a guaranteed exercise in frustration. And I won’t even bother trying to explain the insanity of a chef being forced to prepare exactly the same meal day after day. I just couldn’t live like that indefinitely.

So it was up to me to fix things. I tried to tell the captain about it at breakfast, but he looked at me like I was crazy. And when I spoke to his first mate, I was sent to see the ship’s therapist for a stress evaluation. The good doctor’s solution was to give me some pills to help me sleep. I tried befriending other people who worked on the bridge, but everyone thought I was nuts. Not cut out for the long trip through space.

You have to believe me when I say that I tried to fix this the easy way. I really didn’t want to hurt anyone. I liked being innocuous. I liked my life on the ship. But I was meant for straight lines and defined endings. I was not meant to go in circles until I became completely unhinged.

So, yes, in the end I poisoned everyone. It was the only way to be sure. I tried just poisoning just the captain first, and then the other commanding officers, but it didn’t change the outcome. I had to poison them all.

I see you writing in your notebook. I know you think I’m crazy. I really do feel bad about killing everyone, but I couldn’t spend another day inside that loop.

Thank goodness no one ever skipped dessert.

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This is my submission for this week’s speakeasy #151. We had to write a piece of fiction or poetry under 750 words that started with the line “Life had once been defined by linears and absolutes” and made some sort of reference to this photo:

You should come and check out the other submissions—and maybe even submit your own piece!

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Crème Brûlée image credit: Google Images